Giving Back, People

Vandals or Angels, Detroit Mower Gang Has A Mission

Few images evoke childhood reverie as much as a swing set. Wind whipping, legs pumping, heart racing…it’s what every child deserves, sayeth Tom Nardone. I concur.

To that end, Nardone and The Detroit Mower Gang has launched a full-scale effort to replace the more than 100 missing swings on Detroit playgrounds. He enlisted the incredibly effective Kickstarter website to raise funds, and so far about 50 of us do-gooders have donated more than $2,500. That’s enough for about 30 new swings.

Nardone told me hoped to raise about $800. Certainly, he has met his goal and then some. But more is needed. Maybe we cannot tear down every blighted building. Maybe filling potholes is insurmountable. But we can put some swings in those city parks. Heck, we don’t even have to do the hard labor – that’s what the Mower Gang is all about.

Let me back up a little. Here’s some information about this smooth little group Nardone started about a year ago. The Oakland County businessman and father of three was looking for a way to help Detroit, and he also loved his lawn mower. The city’s parks were in rough shape, and they needed a trim. You see where this is going?

It started simply: The Mower Gang organized its missions via its Web site and Facebook page. Volunteers showed up with their mowers, weed wackers and other goodies. They mowed, cleaned and added new plants in public spaces around the city. Mostly, they targeted abandoned parks the city can no longer afford to keep in good repair.

At first, The Detroit Mower Gang had a lot of nicknames: Renegade landscapers, reverse vandals, vigilantes. Since then, they’ve gone pretty legit. They’ve cleaned up old Tigers Stadium, shaped up the Velodrome at Dorais Playground, fixed up a broken whale playset at Riverside Park.

Nardone even met with the city this week to talk about the park project, and Detroit officials seemed thrilled with the offer to replace the swings, he said. During its March survey, the Mower Gang found 111 missing swings: 77 big swings and 34 baby swings. Once he buys the replacements, the first ones will go up in areas with the highest density of children. (There’s even plans to secure them so vandals and rebel teens don’t get any ideas…)

“It is a shame, really, that Detroit has 95 percent of what it needs. It has the swing sets, but not the swings,” said Nardone, owner of Troy-based PriveCo. Inc., an online retailer of items most people don’t like to buy in public.

There’s only a few days left to donate. I’d love to see if we can get 60, 70 or even 80 swings replaced.  Someone from California pitched in $400 to get the ball rolling. Other pledges came in from Texas, Australia and the Philippines. And it’s not like you don’t get anything from it (other than a warm fuzzy) – if you donate more than $80, Nardone will write your name on the swing’s bottom in permanent ink. Some kid will thank you for it.

Other unfinished business:
•    Check out Detroit Lives! and Phil Lauri’s Kickstarter to get that Poland/Detroit documentary going. He is hoping to raise funds to defer production costs, sound engineering, editing and travel costs — buses, food, lodging, etc.
•    Allee Willis has been writing some wonderful stuff about her recent visit to Detroit. It is well worth checking out – and maybe sending her an email or two to convince her that she should move to the city!
•    A bunch of us bloggers got an early look at the new Detroit Hostel that Ashley told you all about. Let’s just say The New York Times is going to be beating down Emily Doerr’s door. It’s great, and she’s great. Make sure you go to the grand opening Sunday if you can. (It’s at 2 p.m. in and around 2700 Vermont Street. Look for the redhead surrounded by classy folks like Charles Pugh and Brian Calley.)

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4 comments on “Vandals or Angels, Detroit Mower Gang Has A Mission

  1. Pingback: Some News from Around… « City Parks Blog

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